It was a small victory for Shelby Township Thursday after a Macomb County judge ordered Ford Motor Company to allow the township's experts to begin collecting environmental data samples on the site of the former Visteon Plant on Mound Road.
In an emergency hearing, requested by Shelby Township, Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Richard L. Caretti ruled that starting Monday, Dragun Corp., of Farmington Hills can begin a full-scale investigation on the plant grounds.
Until Thursday, CEO of Dragun, Dr. Jim Dragun, told Patch they have been taking samples from the groundwater on the property adjacent to the site, which is owned by developer Grand Sakwa.
Tests have returned positive for degreaser chemicals TCE and TCA.
"Like most chemicals, these are dose dependent. However, TCE is a known carcinogen and can cause cancer, and TCA can cause various organ damage," said Dragun, who added that the levels were "very, very high."
The area that is contaminated is close to several subdivisions, all which use city water for drinking.
However, the homes do have irrigation wells for the grass and horticulture.
Ron Gansior, whose property in Kensington at Central Park begins where the TCE and TCA was found, joked that his trees have not yet turned orange. However, the retired engineer added that if he had young children, he would not let them play on the grass or run through the sprinklers.
"Right now there isn’t enough info to make a rational decision and our Board is doing everything possible to find out what’s going on," he said.
Ganisor said his main concern at this point is the property values. He fears that the values have already decreased since they are attached to contaminated land.
Testing At the Site
Last week, Shelby Township sent Ford a letter requesting that they begin cleaning up the site where the TCA and TCE were found immediately.
Ford said in a letter to Patch.com that it has hired Conestoga-Rovers & Associates (CRA) to handle all environmental testing.
"We have not seen any data to support that anything is leaving the former plant site and moving into the neighboring community," said Ford spokesperson Becky Sanch. "Ford remains committed to doing what is right for the community and the environment."
However, Shelby Township Attorney Rob Huth said until now, Ford has not allowed Dragun to get on the plant site and begin testing.
"We want to find out of the source (of contamination) and make sure it's neutralized or eliminated and no longer adding chemicals to the environment," said Dragun. "Ford has never identified what the source is, the location and whether its still emitting chemicals into the soil."
Dragun has said it would cost $57 million alone to clean up the site of the empty land adjacent to the Visteon plant where the TCE and TCA were found. He added that he can't even begin to guess what it would cost to clean up the entire plant - that is if contamination is found.
Ford is responsible for any and all environmental repercussions because the motor company sold the former Visteon plant to Indiana Metals, who started demolition in May 2011, but stopped after the township issued a lawsuit claiming work was not being executed safely and properly, including improper removal of asbestos.
Conditions set fourth by the township have been met, and demolition is currently at about 80 percent, according to Huth.
Residents Want Meeting With Ford
"Ford as a reputable company and has to be up front with the community and they need to work with the township to finalize what exactly is in the water wells and the obligation from Ford is to fix it," said Gansior.
Last month, Judge Caretti denied Ford's request to keep records on the Visteon property sealed after Shelby Township officials challenged Ford's request for a protective order, citing concerns about possible ground water contamination.
"I do think there should be a public meeting that Ford and the township should hold once they have the results. That’s an obligation they have to alleviate the concerns of the property owners," Gansior added.